Operation Finale: Covert Methods for Justice | Sunday Observer

Operation Finale: Covert Methods for Justice

14 June, 2020

The world of cinema can be called somewhat an ‘artistic repository of history’ through the language of motion pictures. Many are the movies that have been made of the ‘holocaust’, which was one of the darkest episodes in modern human history. “Operation Finale”, directed by Chris Weitz, is a work of cinema that is connected to this theme yet related to the search of justice and retribution for the crime of genocide done upon the Jews in Germany. The movie is about the covert Israeli operation by Mossad to capture former Nazi strongman Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The movie is based on a true account and has many historically accurate factors. For example, one of the sources for the script was the memoir ‘Eichmann in My Hands’ written by Israeli Mossad officer Peter Malkin. For anyone who has an interest in the history of World War II related events, this historical drama movie is one that must be watched.

Screen legend

The movie stars academy award winning screen legend Sir Ben Kingsley in the lead role as Adolf Eichmann and Oscar Issac as Peter Malkin. 

The story gains pace when suspicions that former SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann may be living secretly under a false identity in Buenos Aires, Argentina, get conveyed to West German prosecutor-general Fritz Bauer by a Jewish German named Lothar, living in Argentina, when he comes to know that his daughter Sylvia’s friend Klaus’s father was an SS officer but supposedly killed during the war. The reason for suspicion being that Klaus claims he is living with his uncle who brought him up. 

Bauer, suspecting that this information may be linked to the actual existence of Eichmann, relays this information to Mossad director Isser Harel in Israel. However the Mossad’s director is less than enthusiastic and expressed his unwillingness to devote resources to investigate this claim thinking that it might be yet another wild goose chase to find Eichmann, as per previous experiences.

However Bauer’s words do not fall on deaf ears completely because at the insistence of Mossad agent Rafi Eitan, the Mossad’s director dispatches a field agent named Zvi Aharoni to Buenos Aires to begin investigations and gather intelligence.

Agreeing to work in cooperation with the Mossad agents, Sylvia meets the Eichmann family at their home and during the conversation it is noted that Klaus accidentally addresses his supposed ‘uncle Ricardo’ as ‘Father’! Klaus’s ‘uncle Ricardo’ who is in fact Eichmann, is photographed by the Mossad agents and the intelligence gathered from the conversation between Sylvia and the Eichmann family is relayed back to Israel.

Reviewing the gathered intelligence from the reconnaissance mission by the Mossad agents, the director of the Mossad, Isser Harel, authorizes the mission to capture and extract Eichmann to Israel, to make him stand trial for war crimes. After a full briefing on the mission’s objectives and methods of operation based on the intelligence collected, Harel dispatches the team to Buenos Aires, who set off on what is one of the great historic covert operations in the history of the Mossad, which takes place in 1960.

After careful undercover surveillance, an opportunity arises to capture Eichmann outside his home on a late evening. What ensues is a journey that puts the patience, endurance and skills in subterfuge of the Mossad team to full gear. Eichmann is taken to a Mossad safe house where the team begins to interrogate him to establish beyond all doubt that who they have in their custody is in fact Adolf Eichmann.

What the team of Mossad officers overlooks is that during the scuffle when Eichmann is forcibly apprehended, Eichmann loses his spectacles, which fall on the road. Eichmann’s son Klaus discovers that his father has been captured after seeing the spectacles left on the road, and approaches Carlos Fuldner, a former SS officer who knew Eichmann was living in Buenos Aires under a false identity. Klaus and Carlos realise that Sylvia or her father may have been the source of how the information got out.


The Mossad agents establish Eichmann’s identity and begin the next phase of their operation which is the secret extraction of Eichmann from Argentina to Israel on a plane that has been arranged for this purpose.

After a series of breaches of secrecy in the chain of persons who come to know of what is going on in the safe house, which includes a mishap by a volunteer of Jewish background who helps in the safe house, the Mossad team find themselves on a race against time and the possibility of capture from Argentina’s authorities when Klaus and Carlos track down the location of the safe house.

The safe house is abandoned and Eichmann is taken away by the agents in a car to the airport. Klaus and Carlos arrive at the safe house too late, and begin their race to the airport. At a security checkpoint, a security guard suspects one of the agents and notifies the police.

To add to the obstacles befalling the path of the Mossad agents, the flight is subsequently delayed due to an issue with the flight permit. Carlos and Klaus arrive at the airport with police hoping to stop the flight. However one of the Mossad agents rushes to air traffic control with their flight permit in hand, to ensure the plane takes off without issue.

The closing scenes of the movie shows real news footage of the actual trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel and provides details from recorded history about the agents who actually pulled off the daring operation that sought to give justice to the millions who were sent to death by Eichmann.

Operation Finale is the type of work of cinema that speaks soundly of how a country such as Israel stands firmly on its national policy of seeking justice for its people from a historical perspective. It is about a people’s perception of nationhood being bound to their need for closure for persecutions they as ‘Diaspora’ had to suffer in different parts of the world in different periods of time, as they made their historical journey as a scattered people across continents and millennia, dreaming of realising nationhood once again in the land of their ancestors.

And their tenacious will to ensure that nationhood once realised should never be denied its dignity.